May 7, 2008 [LINK / comment]
Nationals Park after one month
So far, Nationals Park seems to be fairly balanced as far as hitter-vs.-pitcher friendliness. For the first 18 games played at the new ballpark, there have been an average of 0.86 home runs per game, compared to the major league average of 0.94 homers. Surprisingly, given the shorter dimensions in the power alleys, it is almost exactly the same home run frequency as in RFK Stadium. For the three years the Nats played there, an average of 0.83 homers per game were hit. Given the fact that the Nationals are not known for their slugging prowess (last in the National League with 18 homers), it's just as well. See Washington Post.
Problems in Houston
Fresh on the heels of their superb 8-3 home stand, the Nationals have blown two games in a row to the Houston Astros. Last night, they were leading 5-4 going into the bottom of the ninth, and Houston scored two runs to win. Tonight they were tied in the ninth, whereupon Houston scored one run to win, once again due to sloppy relief pitching. D'oh! Ryan Zimmerman's two home runs went for nought.
Julio Franco retires
I was wondering what had become of Julio Franco as he approaches the mid-century mark, and learned from the Washington Post that he has retired from the Quintana Roo Tigers at the age of 49. (He had previously played in the Mexican League for a couple years before the Braves called him back up, which was a very smart move.) In his 23 years in the majors, Julio had an average of .298, with 173 home runs, the last one being in May 2007 against fellow-40-something Randy Johnson. I was lucky to snap a photo of his next-to-last home run, in RFK Stadium in September 2006. Baseball fans everywhere salute this inspirational, doggedly competitive ballplayer.